Dragon 1/35 SdKfz 181 Pzkpfw VI (P)

KIT #: 6210
PRICE: $30.00
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Dale Rannals
NOTES: New Tool Kit


German combat experience with the French Somua S35 cavalry tank and Char B1 heavy tank, and the British Matilda I and Matilda II infantry tanks in June 1940 showed that the German Army needed better armed and armored tanks. Superior tactics had overcome superior enemy armor, but the Germans did take notice.

 On 26 May 1941, at an armaments meeting, Henschel and Porsche were asked to submit designs for a 45 ton heavy tank, to be ready by June 1942. Porsche worked to submit an updated version of their VK3001(P) Leopard tank prototype while Henschel worked to develop an improved VK3601(H)tank. Henschel built two prototypes. A VK4501(H) H1 which used the 88mm L/56 cannon and a VK4501(H) H2 which used the 75mm L/70 cannon.

On 22 June 1941, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Germans were surprised to encounter Soviet T-34 medium tanks and KV-1 heavy tanks that completely outclassed anything the Germans were currently fielding. The T-34 was almost immune frontally to every gun in German service except the 88mm FlaK 18/36 gun. Panzer IIIs with the 5cm KwK 38 L/42 main armament could penetrate the sides of a T-34, but had to be very close. The KV-1 was almost immune to all but the 8.8cm FlaK 18/36.

Porsche and Henschel submitted prototype designs, both essentially using the same Krupp-designed turret on different hulls, and they were compared at Rastenburg before Hitler. The Henschel design was accepted, especially because of the problem-burdened Porsche gasoline-electric hybrid power unit and its use of large quantities of copper, a strategic war material. Production of the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. H began in August 1942. Awaiting an order for his tank, Porsche had built 100 chassis, using some for his Tiger prototypes. After losing the contract, they were used for a new turret-less, casemate-style tank destroyer; ninety-one hulls were converted into the Panzerjäger Tiger (P) in spring 1943. The vehicle was also known as Ferdinand, and after Hitler's orders of 1 and 27 February 1944, it was renamed Elefant.  

The Porsche was a squat, forward mounted turret design, more heavily armored than it's Henschel competitor.  It had six road wheels per side mounted in paired bogies sprung with short longitudinal torsion bars that were integral to the wheel pair; this saved internal space and facilitated repairs.  It had two gasoline-electric hybrid power systems (gasoline engine / electric generator to electric motor / drive sprocket), one per side of the tank.  This added further complication to an already highly complex machine.  Add the fact that it was unreliable and that the copper used in the motors and generators was needed elsewhere in wartime Germany and it’s easy to see why the Henschel design was chosen.


Well, with 325 parts (302 in gray styrene, 16 etched nickel, 4 etched brass, 2 in tan cementable vinyl, 1 section of steel cable), the box is literally packed full of parts, with the sprues in individual plastic bags. You will have a lot of spares for the bin, as one whole sprue is from Dragons Elephant kit and only a few parts are used from it.  The moldings are crisp and exhibited no flash that I could find. The weld joints are very well depicted, and detail everywhere is superb.  The kit has two photo-etch frets, one of brass that contains screen coverings for the intakes, and one of steel that has hold-down brackets for the towing cables.   A section of steel cable is included, but, for those so inclined, the towing cables are also represented in plastic.  The choice is yours.   One piece vinyl tracks are included, and these react well to normal plastic cement.


 Not a whole lot to say, to tell the truth.  Construction is pretty straight forward.  One area to note is the road wheels.  Be sure to note which wheels go where, and where each wheel pair assembly goes.  Nothing difficult, mind you, you just need to pay attention to the instructions here. 

A box assembly that makes up the hull, and the additional armor plates for the front, all fit well.  The engine intakes are neat little assemblies that consist of a cover to which several angled plates are added underneath. On top of these sits the brass photo-etch screens.  Very nice looking in the end!  The exhaust grille is another matter entirely.   You can look straight thru it to see a very empty tank inside.  I added a blanking plate made of evergreen sheet to the underside and painted it black.  Even that looks better than nothing.

The Commanders cupola is an area where I wasted some time. It is quite an assembly in itself, containing about a dozen pieces. Not being a tread-head…….well, yet…..I duly assembled this and then realized it all gets covered up if you close the hatches, which I did.  Bummer.

I couldn’t force myself to bend all the little hold down brackets for the metal towing cables, so I opted instead to use the plastic ones.  I brush painted the cables Metalizer Magnesium; this gives it a very nice used dull gray-metallic look. 


If you want your Tiger P based on reality, you have one choice, and that is depicted in the kit …..the one Tiger P sent to the Russian front, number 003.  I decided to do a ‘whiffer and so I first sprayed everything Panzer Yellow.  Over this I free-handed Panzer Green and Panzer Red stripes randomly.  I then went over the model with small areas of dark brown (Testors Rubber, to be exact) to depict rusty areas of chipped paint. I did this on plate corners and any areas that I thought may get chipped.  I added the German crosses and vehicle number from a Tamiya Panther sheet that I had left over.  Over all this I slathered thin washes of dark brown and black to dirty things up and pop out some detail.

I painted the tracks a rust color, and then dry brushed some Testors Steel on them.  To this I added washes of black and browns to try to dirty things up.  I then went back over them with another light dry-brushing of Steel.  I rubbed a #2 pencil lead across the tracks to give them more of a worn metallic look.  I still need to work on my tracks, as I think I probably should be making them dirtier ….. but getting out of aircraft weathering mode is harder than I thought.


A very nice kit from Dragon.  Well designed plastic and enough photo-etch parts to bring out some detail.  The one-piece tracks may put off the dedicated tread-heads out there, but I was glad to see them in the box as putting individual track links together is my mini version of Hell.


All in all, this is a very nice rendition of Ferdinand Porsche’s just-a-bit-too-complicated design.  It looks pretty cool sitting next to the production Tiger.


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Dale Rannals

April 2012

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